Elements: Effective Partnerships

The “Elements of the Fourth Economy” series will feature key drivers and examples we’ve identified as necessary in building the fourth economy.

The Fourth Economy team continues to encourage “Collaboration” as a key tenant for success in our modern economy. Collaboration is especially important between economic development stakeholders and higher education.

We were fortunate this past summer to work with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA) on a commercialization assessment and site development project.  The project was led by the nationally recognized planning firm RCLCO, Inc.  What we discovered there was impressive.

The partnership between ULL and LEDA moves far beyond marketing rhetoric.  There is a deep understanding from both camps that an alignment between economic development and the university is key to achieving each of their respective goals and objectives. “Without the successful company recruiting and retention activity of our regional economic development entities, such as LEDA, our students would face a much greater likelihood of underemployment or outmigration,” noted Dr. Paula Phillips, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Planning and Effectiveness at ULL.

Gregg Gothreaux, President and CEO, LEDA, added, “From LEDA speaking in support of the establishment of new degree programs to UL professors providing expertise in specific fields for recruitment efforts—officials at LEDA and UL Lafayette see that the benefits of working together extend beyond one company or one project, but to the community as a whole. It’s this ongoing cooperation that was recognized by Southern Business and Development’s inclusion of Lafayette in their 2011 list of the top 10 economic development collaborations in the South.”

This recognition of how ULL and LEDA activities impact each of their success is a milestone in and of itself.  But this partnership’s effectiveness is also highlighted in three keys key areas of its operations.


Strong collaboration is built upon active communication and engagement. ULL and LEDA have extensive cross representation on their boards, committees and projects.  From key research faculty to the President’s office, ULL is a part of the LEDA operations, actively engaged in strategic planning, business outreach, and regional market positioning.  Likewise, LEDA management and board members are linked through the trustee board, development office and campus planning.  This level of ongoing communication enables each offer coherent and seamless service and planning continuum.


As a result of the communication linkages, LEDA and ULL work daily to understand their respective objectives and the assets needed and available to achieve those goals.  High value resources such as ULL’s LITE Center, Microscopy Center, FTTP Initiative, Center Business and Information Technology, Enterprise Center of Louisiana, Louisiana Accelerator Center, and Center for Structural & Functional Materials are all aligned with LEDA’s target industry sectors and market niches.  LEDA actively leverages each of these assets for business attraction, creation and retention.


We have seen very few economic development organizations so effectively use and understand its regional market data than LEDA.  The economic development agency has become the “go to” organization when gauging industry market trends and opportunities.  This year LEDA developed their own customized ‘Lafayette Economic Performance Index,” which highlights key data points unique to their own market.  This information is shared with ULL and used as a tool to gauge market, research and employment opportunities.

“Our viability at the university, in large part, is contingent upon the achievements of LEDA , and we both do whatever we can to support that synergy and interdependence”

Dr. Paula Phillips Carson, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

These three factors help define a fourth economy collaboration.  They enable each partner to be nimble, responding quickly to challenges and opportunities.  The partnership builds a level of confidence for potential investors, as they can quickly learn that this it is highly functional and not simply a marketing strategy.  And finally it forms a long-lasting engagement as each builds trust in and understanding of the other.

Kudos to our partners in Lafayette for building capacity in the fourth economy!  If you have a success story, send it along.  We are eager to learn more about new and innovative approaches happening in your neck of the woods.